The Arts and Culture Development Foundation under the Cabinet of Ministers of the Republic of Uzbekistan presents 'The Splendours of Uzbekistan’s Oases' at the Louvre in Paris
Visitors to the Louvre museum in Paris are invited on a journey to the grand days of the Great Silk Road.
'The Splendours of Uzbekistan’s Oases: at the Crossroads of the Caravan Routes'is an exhibition that allows visitors to experience the glorious era when caravans roamed Central Asia, a journey that spans over 1,900 years.
Most of the unique exhibits have left Uzbekistan for the first time. One of the treasures unveiled is a door from Gur-i-Mir, the mausoleum of Amir Timur, known as Tamerlane by Europeans, in the city of Samarkand.
“We managed to collect the best works from museum collections throughout the country, 13 museums are represented here," explained Gayane Umerova, Executive Director of the Art and Culture Development Foundation of the Republic of Uzbekistan. "There are exhibits that went through a very long stage of restoration in Uzbekistan, on which French restorers worked. We have been preparing for this exhibition for four years and 70 exhibits have been restored.”
The Uzbek Mona Lisa
The jewel in the crown of the exhibition – dubbed the Uzbek Mona Lisa - is the 'Painting of the Ambassadors'. It tells the story of diplomatic exchanges in the oases of the Kingdom of Samarkand, which was located at the crossroads of Central Asia's caravan routes. The ambassadors are seen parading before the King of Samarkand.
Frantz Grenet, Chair of History and Cultures of Pre-Islamic Central Asia at the College de France, explains the painting's significance:
"At the time the painting was executed, probably June 21, 660, the Zoroastrian New Year festival in Samarkand, the great dragon boat festival in China and the summer solstice fell on the same day, the coincidence of all these New Year festivals among various people served for the king of Samarkand to show that he pulled all the strings when it came to the roads of Asia."
Another extremely precious exhibit that travelled all the way from Uzbekistan is the Koran of Katta Langar. It dates back to the end of the 7th and the beginning of the 8th century.
“It is one of the oldest Korans in the world, it is barely 100 years after the beginning of Islam, we know that it was written in copy in Uzbekistan. It is now part of the world heritage of humanity,” explained Yannick Lintz, the exhibition's curator.
The statue of a king of the Kushan dynasty on display dates back to the 1st century AD.
It's one of the numerous Buddhist statues discovered in the Dalverzin-Tepe archaeological sites in Uzbekistan that date back to between the 2nd and 3rd century AD. They are all made from unfired clay.
The history of Buddhism in Uzbekistan was one of the topics of the academic conferences about the exhibition held at the Louvre.
“Before the advent of Islam, the Buddhist religion spread throughout southern Uzbekistan," said Shokir Pidayev, Director of the Institute of Art Studies at Uzbekistan's Academy of Sciences. "From the Buddhist centre of old Termez, Buddhism spread to the East, primarily to China and to the West in Parthia.”
Around 180 works are exhibited, including several pieces from Western collections such as The Book of Marvels, commonly called The Travels of Marco Polo. Public interest is extremely high.
"This exhibition is a very important and special moment for the Louvre Museum, in the Louvre Museum for the public who come to explore this famous crossroads of the caravan routes of the Silk Roads... this is a journey through 2,000 years of history, across 19 centuries,” explained Rocco Rante, an archaeologist and exhibition curator at the Louvre.
The unique art of silk and gold
If the Louvre is not enough, you can continue your journey into Uzbekistan’s past at the Arab World Institute in Paris.
The exhibition 'On the Roads of Samarkand: Wonders of Silk and Gold' illustrates the art of living and craftsmanship at the court of the emirs in the 19th century.
Yaffa Assouline, the Chief Curator of the exhibition explains the unique artistry of the works on display:
“It is a particular kind of embroidery, which covers the whole fabric. And it's extraordinary, and that's why the conservation is perfect. Because the whole fabric is covered with gold, and the gold does not deteriorate."
The treasures on display at this exhibition have never Uzbekistan before.
These treasures from Uzbekistan’s museums have also left the country for the first time.
“In Uzbekistan, all the techniques that you see at this exhibition still exist," said Gayane Umerova, "it is really important for us to show that we have not lost these traditions, that our craftsmen continue to work with this technique and that the traditions of applied art are alive”.
With the grand opening of the two exhibitions, Uzbekistan is paving the way to a new era of cultural diplomacy. The Art and Culture Development foundation of Uzbekistan is eager to share the country’s cultural history with the world. The Deputy of the Council of the Foundation, Saida Mirziyoyeva, called the exhibitions historic.
“I would like to welcome all guests and partners to the opening of these historic exhibitions for our country," said Mirziyoyeva.
Both exhibitions in Paris are indeed a unique opportunity to take a closer look at Uzbekistan’s history, an important chapter in the story of our civilization.
'The Splendours of Uzbekistan’s Oases: at the Crossroads of the Caravan Routes' is on at Paris' Louvre until March 6.
_'On the Roads of Samarkand: Wonders of Silk and Gold' is on at the Arab World Institute (IMA) in Paris until June 4.